Listening to Former Students

I like listening to my former students, especially the ones who seem to be doing well out there in the adult world. “Was your education lacking in any way?” “How could I have better prepared you for life after graduation?” “Am I doing anything in my classes that is just a waste of time?” It is hard to make improvements if you don’t have a good assessment of your own strengths and weaknesses. And, who understands them better than students who have gone through your class and are now out in the real world.

A couple of days ago, I posted the previous blog (below) about pushing students to go beyond the right answer and encouraging them to address the more important issue: why is a certain answer the right answer? Today, I got an email from a student who was in a couple of my classes 3-4 years ago. She started out at the University of Richmond and finished up at Wharton and seems to have done well since graduation. I respect her opinion. Here was her response to that post—I especially liked her last sentence (although it is probably a run-on sentence).

“The right answer only counts for so much. In my experience so far in life, you rarely have to come to an ‘answer’ that you submit to someone and then wait and see if it's correct or not. All of the situations I've found on the job to date involve either working with a team, or data you got from someplace, or ideas you generated. You then form a hypothesis or explanation and describe to people why your 'answer' makes the most sense. One of the competencies I have the most difficulty with is thinking outside the box. One of the reasons I think I have trouble is because in school we got so much training in coming to the correct answer, but really being able to examine that answer and explain why it is correct and be open to others helping you develop it further is so much more useful.”

I like her words: “You then form a hypothesis or explanation and describe to people why your ‘answer’ makes the most sense.” Okay, here is my challenge to you and to me both: As you get ready to enter the fall semester of 2010, is that what your students wind up doing in your classes?

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